Oliver and William Wease were not only brothers, they were also brothers in arms, enlisting together in the 25th Battalion and embarking with their uncle, Harry Shirley, as reinforcements for Gallipoli.
With consecutive service numbers, the three left Brisbane on the HMAT Kyarra on August 16, 1915, arriving after the last disastrous allied offensive of the ill-fated campaign.
Oliver, 20, was the youngest of five sons of Sarah Wease (nee Shirley) to serve in the war and the last of three to be killed in action – all within six months of each other – on the Western Front.
Enlisting on July 26, 1915, he assigned three fifths of his pay to his mother before embarking for overseas service with the 3rd reinforcements of the 25th Battalion to boost the depleted ranks of the ANZAC force.
After arriving at Gallipoli in October, Oliver spent two months manning the trenches before the allied evacuation in December. He returned to Alexandria in Egypt via Mudros on January 9, 1916 and began training for the Western Front.
As part of the British Expeditionary Force to France, Oliver left Egypt on March 14 and arrived in Marseilles five days later, the 25th Battalion the first to land there.
Wounded in action on August 5 during the battalion’s first major battle at Pozieres, Oliver was among the battalion’s 785 casualties. He was admitted to a divisional rest station suffering shell shock, discharged to duty two days later, and rejoined his unit on August 11.
The 25th Battalion spent time in a quieter part of the front in Belgium before moving south again to the Somme Valley where it took part in two attacks at Flers which became bogged down in mud.
Oliver was sick in hospital during the early part of the second battle of Bullecourt, where the battalion played a supporting role from May 3 to 17, rejoining his unit on May 11.
Four days later he was promoted to Lance Corporal and nine days after that to Lance Sergeant.
Oliver returned to England to the 7th Training Battalion on October 4. He was admitted to Queen Mary’s Military Hospital on October 24 with a slight gunshot wound to the left hand.
After training at the School of Musketry, Tidworth, throughout November, Oliver qualified with a “fair knowledge of Lewis Gun”.
He left for France via Southampton on December 9 and rejoined his battalion in Belgium a week later.
Oliver was killed in action on New Year’s Day, 1918, at Ploegsteert, where his and other Australian battalions spent the winter in mud and snow holding the line.
His step-brother, Charles Blunt – a son of Sarah Wease and Mark Blunt – had been killed in action a little over a week earlier on December 22. Another step-brother, Joseph Blunt had been killed in action on July 7, 1917.
Willliam Wease was in England, where he had been since October after being wounded in action for the third time, when Oliver was killed. Their uncle, Harry Shirley, had left the battalion in August to return to Australia after suffering recurrent bouts of illness.
In May, 1925, Oliver’s father, William Wease senior, received a telegram advising that his son’s remains had been interred in Underhill Farm Cemetery at Ploegsteert, Belgium.
The Canungra memorial is a stark reminder of the heavy toll the Great War took on the Wease and Blunt families. In addition to the three young men killed in action, the memorial also marks the contribution of Victor Wease and William Wease who served overseas, surviving to return to their families.